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After Takeover from CoreCivic, Oklahoma Prison Even More Short-Staffed

Five days after the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) took over a state prison from private operator CoreCivic on October 1, 2023, a ceremony was held to rename the former Davis Correctional Facility. On the same day, October 6, 2023, a prisoner stabbed a guard at the medium-security facility now known as Allen Gamble Correctional Center (AGCC)—in memory of another guard fatally stabbed at another DOC lockup—underscoring violence that continues to plague the prison and the 1,600 men incarcerated there.

CoreCivic failed to maintain sufficient guard staff, which dwindled to just 161 before the takeover. Since then, staffing is down even more to just 106 guards, DOC said. Some couldn’t pass the state background check, according to DOC spokeswoman Kay Thompson. But 28% of the prison’s staff opted to stay with CoreCivic and transfer to another of its lockups. CoreCivic’s hourly pay for guards starts at $22.10, significantly higher than the $20.46 rate offered by DOC.

Oklahoma Corrections Professionals director Bobby Cleveland called low staffing a “big mess” for his union members, with a dangerously low ratio of one guard for every 15 prisoners. By comparison, the Arkansas DOC’s ratio is just 1:8. DOC boosted guard pay 30% in 2022, but Cleveland said another hike is clearly needed.

Ironically, state Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) said during the renaming ceremony that he was “thankful this facility is now becoming a safe facility.”

“I’m thankful for our private partners,” he said, “but as the state is able now to begin taking some of these facilities, I believe we can take them to the next level.”

DOC released no information about the stabbing except that the unnamed guard was fine. State prisons are plagued not only by low staffing but also by drugs and gang tensions, according to Emily Shelton, founder of advocacy group Hooked on Justice.

“I fear every day that I will get a phone call telling me my loved one is dead,” she said.

AGCC has recorded at least four fatal stabbings since January 2022, including three prisoners and a guard. Another 14 non-fatal stabbings were also logged in that period. The prison’s new name honors a DOC guard fatally stabbed at Oklahoma State Reformatory in June 2000, when he responded to help another guard who was stabbed but survived.

 

Source: The Oklahoman

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